When Asheville Stopped Being Polite, and Started Getting Real

I’m not a big believer in today’s reality television. It’s become too polished. Too produced. Everyone goes on with the end goal of being an influencer or entertainment show correspondent. I used to be a big fan, back when the end goal was being Brett Michael’s rock of love. Back when reality stars weren’t savvy and acted legitimately unhinged. Go back and watch season 1 of Jersey Shore. They had no idea what they were doing. They weren’t putting on airs. They were simply raging on film and that made it much closer to reality, my reality at least, than any real housewife or bachelor in paradise could ever hope for—I’ve never watched any of those shows and saw anything close to real human behavior, but when a disheveled season 1 Jwoww drunkenly told the confessional that she felt like “eating ham and drinking water” after a night out at the shore? I know 10 version of that girl. I’m friends with most of them.

I had friends in town three weekends ago and wanted to take them to Hemingway’s, as that’s become my go-to dinner spot for any visitors due to its insane mountain views. We didn’t get any mountain views. Instead, we got a downpour and front row seats to a live taping of the “hit” reality show, My Big Fat Fabulous Life.

We were driving from having just got a pre-dinner drink at Burial Brewing and were circling Hemingway’s trying to find a parking space. At the intersection of Page and Battery Park Avenue, just outside the Battery Park Book Exchange, we noticed a taller gentleman walking very importantly through the rows of tables on the sidewalk as what appeared to be a camera crew tracked him. My friend, possibly emboldened by her Burial Beer, actually said, “are you a reality show?” out the window to the back of the closest camera person, but then the car in front of me moved, so I lurched forward and honestly I probably never would have thought about it again had that taller gentleman not been leading his posse of big fat fabulous lifers to the very patio we were about to dine on.

When we arrived at Hemingway’s we were seated under a patio awning since it looked like rain. We ordered drinks and a slew of appetizers and at this point I noticed the tallish, self-important looking gentleman glide through the patio with a camera man following him, followed by two other men and two women with a full camera crew in tow. After this very grand entrance, this self-important tall man essentially disappeared from the scene and the balcony. I never did any research to find out anything about him because like I said, unless it’s the cast of Jersey Shore, I don’t care much for the reality stars of today.

I did care to learn what was going on, and our waitress was the one who then informed us that the show was called My Big Fat Fabulous Life, that it was in its 5th season, it was based out of Greensboro, and that production had only given them about 10 minutes notice that they were coming to film. She asked if we wanted to move inside now that there was this commotion outside, but we were curious.

Our waitress also cautioned that we might have to sign a waiver if they filmed near us. We asked her if she’d signed one and she said she did, and at that point, maybe because I too had been slightly emboldened by my Burial Beer and the first few sips of my new old fashioned, I made the decision that I would not sign any waiver as I was a private citizen who just happened to want to enjoy my meal. If they wanted me for a background shot, they’d have to blur out my face.

We then watched as the cast of My Big Fat Fabulous Life enact the same scene a couple times.

As it started to rain harder and harder, the cast started moving closer and closer to where we sat safely ensconced under the awning, and getting more and more animated. It appeared that some drama was building along with the storm.

At that point, a representative from the show came over to ask if we’d sign waivers. We stuck to our guns and refused. They also asked if we’d mind moving our seats, but at this point I was certainly emboldened and getting increasingly annoyed with how casually they expected us to upend our plans to accommodate their shots so refused to do that too. Listen, if it were Snooki and the Situation  reenacting a scene 4 times in a row, I would’ve gone wherever they asked me, but certainly not for a group of reality stars who didn’t even take the time to spray tan themselves orange.

At one point the rain was torrential, and the wind was whipping it sideways under the awning that was supposed to be keeping us dry. My back was getting soaked. This rag tag crew of reality “stars” was just to our left having some kind of argument that was starting to lead the star into histrionics and causing her sidekick to massively role her eyes and loudly say “I need another drink” enough times to satisfy production. Meanwhile, we kept ordering more drinks and attempting to enjoy our paella as a group of producers whispered on one side and camera people conferred on the other. That’s when I posed for the photo leading into this post.

The production crew and camera people were lovely, apologetic, and game to let us pose with their cameras even while we refused to sign their waivers. We only interacted with one of the one air talent, a boyfriend or love interest of the sidekick who sort of moped around our table while his three costars ran out into the downpour to weep cinematically. We asked him what season the show was in. He said “the 12,000th” in a way that told me he was definitely going to go home that night and text his boys about how he owned some peasants in Asheville. That’s fine. I knew I was going to go home eventually and write a blog post he’ll never read where I mock him for being a backup player on a TLC show. You know who’ll have the last laugh though? Probably him. He probably makes more than I do shilling flat tummy tea or some meal prep delivery service on Instagram twice a month. Life is truly unfair.

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